Growing Plants in Tyre Tubes

“I have about 20 pots with roses, vegetables, and other flowers that I grow on my terrace. Each day while watering them, I used to think about the amount of extra water that was being wasted in the process. The excess water would either drip from the pots or would be evaporated after some time. Also, when watering through the tubes, a lot of water would simply spill over. Moreover, the quantity of soil required is very high in pots and a lot of weeds grow in it,” says Dr. Anumakonda Jagadeesh, a resident of Vellore.

With the desire to save water and prevent the growth of weeds near his plants, Dr. Jagadeesh started practising soil solarisation, a process in which the soil is covered with a sheet of polyethylene cover to trap solar energy that helps prevent pests and the growth of weeds in the soil. This process is also known as mulching of the soil, and it stops the evaporation of excess water as well. However, the disadvantage here, according to Dr. Jagadeesh is the amount of plastic waste generated. Polyethylene degrades due to sunlight after a certain period, and makes recycling very difficult.  After a lot of research in his garden, Dr. Jagadeesh came up with an innovative idea of growing vegetables and flowering plants inside tyre tubes. For this, he used the tube from inside a discarded car tyre and made four holes on one side, each with a diameter of two inches. He filled these holes with organic soil – just as much amount as was required for each plant. Beneath the tyre he made a small opening using the air pin of the tyre, for excess water to flow out if required. The plants are grown in these holes and the tyre does not get affected by sunlight.

The overall advantages of the technique include the following:

Used tyre tubes of cars, motor cycles, tractors (for farming in fields), etc. are very cheap.
2. The process helps save almost two-thirds of the amount of soil used for growing plants in pots.
3. It helps save water by avoiding evaporation and seepage.
4. More plants can be grown in lesser space.
5. It helps prevent weed growth.
6. Nutrients like water and fertilisers can be supplied directly near the roots and instead of seeping downwards with the water, they spread sideways and last long.
7. Dr. Jagadeesh claims that the process also leads to higher growth as compared to growing plants in pots.
8. Compared to plastic mulch, rubber tube lasts longer and does not degrade.

Dr. Jagadeesh is a renewable energy expert who obtained his doctorate degree in wind energy from University of Roorkee (now known as Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee). He has been involved in teaching and research for the last 30 years and has pioneered several innovative projects around the conservation of water and energy.